10 Jul, 2024


Justin Trudeau’s Appointment of Anthony Housefather as Special Advisor


I am a Christian Palestinian-Arab refugee who moved to Canada in 1965 after being denied by Israel the right to return to my homeland because of my religious and ethnocultural category.

I am proud of living in a country whose Charter has been protecting my rights and freedoms, such as freedom of expression and the right to equality, which were denied to me in my homeland.

I am very concerned by the anti-Palestinian racism being promoted recently by some politicians and mainstream media by demonizing Palestinians, and the hundreds of thousands of Canadians of all faiths and races who have rallied across the country in support of Palestinian rights and have called to stop Israel’s ongoing assault on the occupied Gaza Strip that has killed so far 40,000 Palestinians and is inflicting starvation on 1.2 million.

On 26 January 2024, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) concluded that Palestinians in Gaza face a “real and imminent risk” of genocide. The ICJ ordered Israel to halt attacks on Palestinians, halt incitement against Palestinians, and ensure humanitarian aid to the Palestinians. However, Israel has completely disregarded these orders.

Responding to popular demands, Canada’s Parliament reacted quickly by passing a motion on March 18, 2024 calling for an immediate ceasefire and an end to arms exports to Israel. All Liberal MPs voted for the motion with the exception of Liberal MPs Anthony Housefather, Marco Mendecino and Benn Carrall who joined MPs from the Conservative Party in voting against the motion.

These three Liberal MPs opposed a ceasefire even though Israel had killed by that time 31,645 Palestinians, 70 percent of whom were children and women, and was inflicting starvation on 1.2 million.

In a National Post article on March 27, 2024, Housefather stated he is a “proud Zionist” who believes that Jews have a right to have a state in their ancestral homeland since Jews are indigenous to the area, and that Israel is a place where every Jew in the world could go for security reasons.

Alarmingly, Housefather’s article completely ignores the fact that Christian and Muslim Palestinian Semites are also indigenous to the area and that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, grew up in Nazareth where my family comes from, and that Christianity sprang in Palestine. He also hides the fact that 6 million Palestinian refugees [including my family] have been denied the right to return to their homeland since 1948 in violation of UN Resolution 194 of December 1948 and Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

By doing so, Housefather endorses Zionist Israel’s racist ideology that relegates an inferior status to Christians and Muslims and attempts to erase Palestine, Palestinian history and culture by promoting anti-Palestinian racism.

Housefather also glosses over Israel’s 65 laws that systemically discriminate against its 2.1 million Christian and Muslim Palestinian citizens who constitute 21 precent of its population, and he also ignores Israel’s Nation-State law passed in 2018 that completely ignores those citizens’ presence by defining Israel as a “Jewish” state and by asserting that only Jews have the right to self determination.

In spite of these racist laws, Housefather passionately supports Israel no matter what it does. As a Christian, I would indisputably oppose any Canadian laws that would grant superior rights to Christians over Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, etc.

Not surprisingly, leading human rights organizations – including UK-based Amnesty International, New York-based Human Rights Watch and Israel’s B’Tselem – have recently concluded that Israel is guilty of committing the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution against the indigenous Christian and Muslim Palestinians. These findings assert that challenging Israel’s racist practices against Palestinians is a legitimate form of political expression by any Canadian.

Housefather also claimed that Jewish students are being intimidated on campus by the pro-Palestine encampments and that universities should take action against students and faculty that unfairly condemn Israel’s assault on the occupied Gaza Strip. He also accused the police of not doing enough in criminally prosecuting students who offend Israel’s supporters.

Housefather’s claims have been dismissed by Ontario superior court justice Markus Koehnen who ruled on July 3, 2024, that even though the University of Toronto had the right to remove the protesting students from their property, the university and the interveners in this case failed to prove that the protest was antisemitic or racist. Justice Koehnen’s ruling reads: “The encampment itself has people of various backgrounds including Muslims and Jews. It conducts weekly Shabbats involving Jews and Muslims. Both Jewish and Muslim members of the encampment have testified about its inclusive and peaceful nature.”

And on May 24, 2024, the International Court of Justice concluded yet again —on the heels of earlier judgments in January and March —that Palestinians in Gaza face a real and imminent risk of genocide (due to the particular risk posed by the current offensive in Rafah, the Court ordered Israel to immediately halt its military offensive there, which it has belligerently defied . These significant cases are testing the integrity of our Canadian values and supposed liberal international legal order.

At a time when Israel’s apartheid character is widely acknowledged by the international human rights community, when Israel is on trial for plausible genocide at the International Court of Justice, and the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has applied on May 26, 2024 for arrest warrants against Israel’s leaders for having committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in the occupied Gaza Strip, apologists for Israel like Housefather are trying to make it a disqualifying offence to criticize racist and criminal practices of Zionist Israel.

The July 5 appointment of Housefather – who disregards Zionist Israel’s apartheid and genocidal ideology – as Special Advisor on Jewish Community Relations and Antisemitism could threaten Canadian values, including equality and freedom of expression.  Housefather wants to pressure government institutions to implement the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition – a misleading definition that views any criticism of Israel, even merely describing the situation in the occupied Gaza Strip, as antisemitic. This is an absurd and dangerous situation which the government must unambivalently avoid and reject.

As a “proud” Zionist, Housefather using the misleading IHRA definition will be calling for the criminalization of speech that associates Zionist Israel with racism and genocide, which would imperil not only peaceful and progressive freedom of expression in Canada, but would also jeopardize support for democratically passed resolutions at the United Nations.

This, in turn, will be used to slander mainstream human rights critiques of Israel by credible organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch as antisemitic. If we follow this grotesque perversion of logic on the IHRA’s part, then even the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem would appear to be anti-Semitic! 

By using the misleading IHRA definition, any critic of Israel – including Independent Jewish Voices, Jews Say No to Genocide, anti-Zionist Jews like Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis, opponents of Christian Zionism like the Presbyterian Church USA, and acclaimed Israeli academics like Ilan Pappé and Raz Segal – could be threatened, harassed, excluded and dismissed from their jobs because of their views.

Moreover, Housefather if left unchecked will pressure all institutions to reject anti-Palestinian racism as a concept to exist at all, and would target the Toronto District School Board that adopted anti-Palestinian racism in its anti-racism strategy on June 20, 2024.

Combatting antisemitism and any form of racism requires a committed and qualified person who upholds equality and peaceful freedom of expression, and rejects the false claim that Zionist Israel represents  Jews, as one would reject the false claim that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) represents Muslims.

Undeniably, Housefather is a committed Zionist who overlooks Zionist Israel’s racist supremacist ideology and opposed parliament’s ceasefire motion to stop Israel’s ongoing genocide of Palestinian Semites. The sad reality is that Housefather, as a Special Advisor, will use his position to undermine peaceful freedom of expression by defaming, demonizing and destroying critics of Zionist Israel’s war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Khaled Mouammar is a Christian Palestinian Canadian whose family was forced to flee Haifa, Palestine, in early 1948 and seek refuge in Lebanon. He immigrated to Canada in 1965.

Khaled is a founding member of the Canadian Arab Federation (CAF) in 1967 and served  as a Member of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada from 1994 to 2005.

PAJU NOTE: What do Anthony Housefather and Justin Trudeau really represent?:

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